gov. Kathy Hochul on Thursday approved legislation that gives Mayor Eric Adams control of New York City public schools for two years — adding a stipulation at the eleventh hour to delay an expansion of the governing panel that approves educational policy.
The bill’s two-year renewal period was half of what the mayor and governor had initially sought. And while the law increases the level of parental input by adding four additional parent representatives to the Panel for Educational Policy (PEP) — which approves policies proposed by the city education department — the city will be given six months to “properly effectuate this expanded and inclusive governance model,” according to Hochul’s approval memo.
Following a packed day spent in Albany on new gun legislation, the governor signed the bill late Thursday before mayoral control was set to expire. Although Adams earlier in the day had warned that there could be “madness” should mayoral control lapse, history has shown that delaying the renewal for a few weeks or months has had little impact on students.
In a statement Friday morning, Adams thanked Hochul “for championing on behalf of our students and allowing me and Chancellor Banks to keep the politics out of our schools to provide bold and necessary programs for the betterment of our children.”
Mayoral control allows the mayor to determine education policy, including appointing his own schools chancellor and the majority of the members on the Panel for Educational Policy (PEP).
State Sen. John Liu, chair of the Senate education committee, said the amendment to the bill includes ensuring that high school families have a voice in school governance.
The governor notably did not sign a companion bill that requires the city’s education department to shrink class size — a long sought mission of the teachers’ union and some education advocates.
But in what is shaping up to be a major education policy battle, Adams has opposed that bill, arguing smaller class sizes would impose costs of building new infrastructure and hiring more teachers that could amount to $500 million a year.
Additionally, Adams has expressed concerns about a more difficult financial outlook amid a looming recession and the diminished federal aid tied to student enrollment.
“We have to start gearing up to look at if we’re going to lose federal funding because of what we are facing in the hemorrhaging of students,” the mayor told reporters Thursday at an unrelated press conference.
Enrollment at city schools fell by more than 83,000 students since the start of the pandemic in 2020, leaving the size of the public school population at around 920,000.
In answer to the mayor’s concerns, supporters of the class-size initiative said the city has an unprecedented amount of education funding. Liu, one of the bill’s sponsors, said the state is allocating an additional $1.6 billion in education aid to help the city meet the small class size mandate.
Others, like city comptroller Brad Lander, have also pointed to the education department’s roughly $5 billion in unspent federal stimulus funding.
Michael Mulgrew, the head of the city’s teachers’ union, issued a statement Friday morning expressing his disappointment that Hochul did not sign the class-size bill.
“Smaller classes are the No. 1 concern among NYC parents and educators and the reason why the bills received overwhelming support from the state Assembly and Senate,” he said. “We are calling on the governor to sign this legislation now. Our students can’t wait.”